Royal Mail has been given a £5.6million slap on the wrist by the regulator for missing its delivery targets for both first and second class post – and by some distance.
Ofcom’s intervention should be a much needed wake-up call and Royal Mail must urgently get a grip on what’s happening on the ground.
A good starting point would be to listen to what our readers are saying, rather than batting us off with a ‘there’s no problem,’ type attitude.
In recent weeks, we have heard from readers who have been waiting on post, only to find out it has either gone missing or turned up weeks late.
Royal Fail: The postal service needs to get a grip on what’s happening on the ground
Common themes emerge, chiefly the delivery of large bundles of post.
Readers have told us they have missed hospital appointments and birthday cards after bundles of post arrived at their door up to two weeks late.
Royal Mail has delivered 90.7 per cent of second-class mail within three working days, and just 73.7 per cent of first-class mail in one working day.
It falls well short of the regulator’s target of 93 per cent for first-class and 98.5 per cent for second-class post.
How can Royal Mail then expect customers to stump up even more for stamps, if it can’t guarantee it will do its job?
In 2010, a standard first-class stamp cost 41p and a second-class stamp 32p. Today, after many rises, it sits at £1.25 and 75p respectively – up a huge 205 per cent and 134 per cent respectively.
Sending letters first-class has become a largely futile exercise. Some readers have claimed they have had to wait two weeks to receive post that was sent with a first-class stamp.
When I asked Royal Mail why it had taken so long, it reiterated that significant delays were ‘the exception and not the norm’.
For some households, it feels receiving post on time is, in fact, the exception.
But it is not just a question of delays. The large bundles of post suggests there is a significant backlog and the issues run far deeper than a few absences here and there.
Industrial strikes have done little to help Royal Mail, but it has been 12 months and not much seems to have changed.
Of course, Royal Mail is experiencing a significant change in the make up of what it is actually delivering.
Letter volumes fell 9 per cent last year, and packages now make up 53 per cent of Royal Mail’s revenue.
It has led to some readers claiming that the postal service is prioritising packages over letters, something Royal Mail has continued to deny.
Royal Mail will be pleased, then, that in its report, Ofcom said it had not found any suggestion that senior management had directed the prioritisation of parcels outside of contingency plans.
It might not be so happy that the regulator thinks it appears to have ‘insufficient control, visibility and oversight over local decision-making’ and has concerns over the operation of delivery offices.
The timing of the end of Royal Mail’s 360-year-old monopoly on delivering parcels from Post Office branches is unfortunate, and suggests its authority in the space is being eroded by the likes of DPD and Evri.
So, while it might not be official policy, some delivery offices faced with ongoing absence and vacancies, will have no choice but to prioritise packages.
One postal worker told me that rounds are ‘nearly impossible to finish so mail is returned most days… all parcels must be delivered. No parcels are left or missed on any duty.’
If Royal Mail is not aware of what is happening at local delivery offices – the very heart of the postal service – it has an even bigger issue.
It is crucial that Royal Mail gets it right on the ground, not just at head office. We want it to be a success, to do what it says on the tin and deliver post in a timely manner, especially given the premium it now costs compared to years gone by.
We will continue to listen to what our readers say in terms of the service they are receiving – and the Royal Mail should be collating our cases to see where in the country service is falling short.
It is Royal Mail’s interaction with the public and acknowledging how to staff local delivery offices that will determine its future.
As one email said to us this today: ‘It’s no good giving Royal Mail a fine – they have enough money to pay it. What we need is a postal service that works. Why doesn’t the Prime Minister step in…’
At present, it’s hard to disagree.
You can read our Royal Mail stories below:
> Royal Mail delivering our post less than once a week, say furious households
> Some households claim they receive post in large bundles after delays of up to a fortnight… but Royal Mail insists there is no problem
> Should you post your Christmas cards NOW? Some claim first class post is taking WEEKS amid Royal Mail delays
> I had a parking fine that arrived three weeks late – should Royal Mail pay as I couldn’t get it reduced?
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